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10 things you should know before firing up the wood stove

Editor's note: To check the advisory level on any day beginning Nov. 1, call 541-776-9000. A previous version had the wrong number.

Winter is coming.

That ominous warning carried a deathly chill in HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” Winter’s approach is usually less ominous in the Rogue Valley but nevertheless comes with a warning: There are rules for using your woodstove.

Following are some of those rules and background information on local winter air-quality issues, courtesy of Jon Wright, air quality coordinator for Jackson County Environmental Public Health.

1. Wood-burning advisories are in effect from Thursday, Nov. 1, through the end of February. The rules apply to the use of all woodstoves and fireplaces, but not to open burning or the use of burn barrels. To check the advisory level on any day beginning Nov. 1, call 541-776-9000.

2. There are different rules for certified and uncertified woodstoves and fireplace inserts, with generally looser requirements for those that are certified as less polluting. A certified woodstove or fireplace insert was manufactured after 1985 and has a permanently affixed Oregon DEQ or federal EPA certification label. If you do not know whether your woodstove is certified, call the Jackson County Air Quality Program at 541-774-8207.

3. A green advisory means that both certified and uncertified woodstoves and fireplace inserts can be used, with no more than 50 percent opacity in the thickness of the smoke.

4. A yellow advisory means the area is approaching unhealthful levels in air quality. Certified units may be used, but with no visible smoke. Uncertified units may not be used.

5. A red advisory means air quality has reached unhealthful levels. Certified units may still be used, again with no visible smoke. Uncertified units may not be used.

6. To burn wood more cleanly and efficiently, split your wood ahead of time to help it dry out more completely. Stack and cover the wood and keep it off the ground. Dry your wood for six to 12 months to reduce moisture content and its smoke-producing capabilities.

7. Why does this area have woodsmoke advisories? In 1990, the Environmental Protection Agency declared that the Rogue Valley was in violation of Clean Air Act standards. That violation required local governments to enact new rules to limit air pollution. The changes helped the area achieve attainment, but the rules remain in place.

8. Why did this area fail to meet the standards, while other areas did not? A combination of winter temperature inversions and the Rogue Valley’s bowl-shaped topography traps smoke and other particulates and prevents them from cycling out of the area.

9. Woodstove users may get an exemption to the rules for economic reasons or on occasions when a furnace or central heating system is inoperable.

10. For more information, call 541-774-8207 or go to jacksoncountyor.org/hhs/Environmental-Public-Health and click on the tab labeled “Wood Stove and Open Burning.”

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